Interior Ministry Pushing for Buildings in Haredi Town Despite Proximity to Highway

Government refuses to delay the construction plans, even though it has offered no solution for the noise hazard.

The government is planning residential neighborhoods near the Trans-Israel Highway, to be part of the new ultra-Orthodox town of Harish. The Interior Ministry is pushing for the initiative's approval, even though these neighborhoods would be exposed to noise far exceeding the allowed limit, officials told Haaretz.

The government has refused to delay the construction plans, even though it has offered no solution for the noise hazard. This is the first time neighborhoods are being planned near the busy highway.

Ancho Gosh

A special committee appointed by the Interior Ministry has been advancing plans to build the Haredi town of Harish near Wadi Ara. The first stage consists of putting up 10,000 housing units, some of them just over 100 meters away from the Trans-Israel Highway (also known as Route 6 ) passing through the area.

During the debates to approve the town's blueprints, the interior and housing ministries submitted an acoustic report to the Environmental Protection Ministry, estimating the noise level in the homes located close to the Trans-Israel Highway, sources said.

According to the report, the buildings in the row facing the highway will be exposed to noise levels of up to seven decibels beyond the allowed limit. Consequently, a special session of the Interior Ministry team supervising the planning and operation of the highway was convened to discuss ways of solving the problem.

Among the suggestions was setting up tall acoustic ramparts alongside the highway and noise-insulating window panes in every apartment. A decision was never reached, though, and many questions remain unanswered such as who would finance and maintain the ramparts within the jurisdiction of the company operating the road, sources said.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Ministry said the ministry's demand to postpone the plans until all the acoustic problems are solved was rejected.

The planning committee last week decided to continue forging ahead with the plans and deal with the acoustic problems at a later stage, he said.